We examined the mechanics of online experience-dependent auditory plasticity by assessing the influence of prior context on the frequency-following responses (FFRs), which reflect phase-locked responses from neural ensembles within the subcortical auditory system. FFRs were elicited to a Cantonese falling lexical pitch pattern from 24 native speakers of Cantonese in a variable context, wherein the falling pitch pattern randomly occurred in the context of two other linguistic pitch patterns; in a patterned context, wherein, the falling pitch pattern was presented in a predictable sequence along with two other pitch patterns, and in a repetitive context, wherein the falling pitch pattern was presented with 100% probability. We found that neural tracking of the stimulus pitch contour was most faithful and accurate when listening context was patterned and least faithful when the listening context was variable. The patterned context elicited more robust pitch tracking relative to the repetitive context, suggesting that context-dependent plasticity is most robust when the context is predictable but not repetitive. Our study demonstrates a robust influence of prior listening context that works to enhance online neural encoding of linguistic pitch patterns. We interpret these results as indicative of an interplay between contextual processes that are responsive to predictability as well as novelty in the presentation context.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY Human auditory perception in dynamic listening environments requires fine-tuning of sensory signal based on behaviorally relevant regularities in listening context, i.e., online experience-dependent plasticity. Our finding suggests what partly underlie online experience-dependent plasticity are interplaying contextual processes in the subcortical auditory system that are responsive to predictability as well as novelty in listening context. These findings add to the literature that looks to establish the neurophysiological bases of auditory system plasticity, a central issue in auditory neuroscience.
- supersegmental processing
- subcortical auditory plasticity
- frequency-following response
- predictive tuning
- Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society
Please sign in below with your personal user name and password.